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June 2017 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In June, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and to support a diverse portfolio of internet freedom projects and fellows addressing internet censorship and surveillance threats in closed societies around the world where the free flow of information is curtailed. With the July 1 submission window now closed, OTF is actively reviewing the 82 requests for funding received this round - OTF’s second highest round ever. In calendar year 2017, so far, OTF has received over 450 requests for support. More on trends and findings gleaned from OTF’s application system can be found here.

Notable accomplishments

  • ICFP fellow Geoffrey Alexander co-authored a Citizen Lab report revealing a sophisticated phishing and malware campaign targeting the websites of critical Chinese media organizations, including China Digital Times, Mingjing News, Epoch Times, KH01, and Bowen Press. A forensic analysis conducted by Citizen Lab linked the infrastructure utilized in the campaign to previous malware attacks targeting an independent Tibetan radio station. Read “Insider Information: An intrusion campaign targeting Chinese language news sites” here.

  • Bazaar fully localized the F-Droid secure app distribution platform’s Android app, website, developer tools, and documentation, allowing for widespread translation and use of these resources. F-Droid was also adopted by users in Cuba, setting up an F-Droid repo with 2,000 apps that is open to anyone who connects to their WiFi network. For more, read “How F-Droid is Bringing Apps to Cuba” here.

  • Two Information Controls Fellows began work under contract with OTF. Senior ICFP fellow Ihsan Ayyub Qazi will test and deploy a circumvention tool which also measures for internet censorship for any website visited; Senior ICFP fellow Taha Khan will work to better understand the circumvention ecosystem with a particular focus on VPNs. The projects will, focusing on evaluating the services privacy and security - important given the widespread, global use of VPNs to circumvent censorship and the significant variations in usage by country.. Both Qazi and Khan will be leveraging the expert resources at UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute.

  • The Tor Project released version 7.0.2 of the Tor Browser, including important security updates and update to HTTPS-Everywhere version 5.2.19. Tor has also now reduced bandwidth consumption for Tor clients by 41% since before core Tor version 0.3.1. Download the latest version of Tor here.

  • The Localization Lab established a new communication channel for its volunteers on the Mattermost platform. The channel was inaugurated with an Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) with the Tor Project team, where translators asked questions on several topics, such as the recent blocking of Tor for users in Egypt. The Lab also facilitated the translation of Psiphon 2 into Dari, Psiphon 3 into Tibetan, and started working on translating FreeBooks and FreeBrowser into Persian.

  • Secure submission platform GlobaLeaks completed integration of a Let’s Encrypt client (gaining a trusted domain certificate at no additional cost) and a seamless Tor integration through Tor’s ephemeral hidden services for GlobaLeak’s .onion site, further increasing security for the platform’s users.

  • Privacy and security-enhancing browser plug-in NoScript released NoScript versions 5.0.6. For the technical details, view the NoScript changelog here.

  • ICFP fellow Grace Mutung’u continued her work into information controls mechanisms in Kenya in advance of the country’s upcoming national elections, authoring a report on the topic. Access “Building trust between the state and citizens: A policy brief on Internet shutdowns and elections in Kenya 2017” here.

  • A new circumvention technology resource, bypasscensorship.org, was launched in June. Sponsored by the world’s leading international broadcasters, including OTF grantor the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the site provides information on how to access and download circumvention tools. The site is accessible in seven languages: Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Russian, and Spanish.

  • The Digital Integrity Fellowship Program wrapped up its inaugural year, bolstering the digital security practices of targeted organizations in high-risk areas including Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia, among other locales. Read more about DIFP’s year 1 outcomes here.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of June 2017 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
    Egypt has blocked over 100 local and international websites | Quartz
    The high-tech war on Tibetan communication | Engadget
    India: 20 Internet Shutdowns in 2017 | Human Rights Watch
    Thailand jails man for 35 years for Facebook posts that insulted its royal family | TechCrunch
    Turks Click Away, but Wikipedia Is Gone | New York Times
    Court in Pakistan sentences man to death for ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post | Independent
    How the Russian Internet Censor Banned Itself | Bloomberg
    Venezuelan court fines news website U.S. $500,000 for ‘moral damage’ to politician | CPJ
    Why Internet Access Is a Human Right | Foreign Affairs

Projects Mentioned